Our employees work together closely, irrespective of gender and gender identity, color, religion or creed, age, disability, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, family or marital status, military or veteran status, genetic information or sexual orientation. They all bring their professional backgrounds, life experience and perspectives to the table. We firmly believe that a diverse workforce and an appreciative corporate culture are essential to our ability to innovate and to our business success.
Our approach to diversity and equal opportunity
We are committed to creating an inclusive culture that reflects our values and enables employees to unleash their potential. Our goal is to further expand the diversity of our workforce and offer all our people equal opportunities for advancement.
In 2019, we continued to implement our diversity strategy with its defined two special areas of focus. We continue to promote women in leadership positions, and improve opportunities for talented employees from Asia while promoting a deeper understanding of this growth market. We also continue to pursue the other goals of our strategy: cultivating an international work environment, taking action against all forms of discrimination, creating teams with a balanced age structure, and building a diverse base of educational backgrounds and experience.
The strategic competencies that guide our employees and leaders in their tasks are set out in a Competency Model, a fundamental element of HR processes such as recruitment, feedback and training for people managers and leaders. Building on this model, in 2019 we defined six leadership behaviors and also started to sensitize our people Group-wide to unconscious bias. We help leaders to recognize these thought patterns in their daily interactions and decision-making processes, to reconsider them and to make a lasting change to their behavior.
At the end of 2019, women occupied 33% of leadership roles Group-wide, which means that we exceeded our 2021 target of maintaining a 30% representation of women in these positions. In 2019, we developed goals and measures to achieve a more balanced gender structure in different hierarchical levels of our business sectors. With more women participating in leadership programs today, they are also increasingly being considered as candidates when filling leadership positions. Our flexible working models and our seminars on unconscious bias are helping to increase the proportion of women in the company.
How we are making diversity a pillar of the company
Our Chief Diversity Officer is responsible for steering the diversity strategy. She reports directly to Belén Garijo, the Executive Board member whose responsibilities include Group Human Resources. The Diversity Council, which consists of executives from all our business sectors and select Group functions, redefined its mandate in 2019:
- The members of the Diversity Council are visible advocates of our Diversity & Inclusion agenda and actively support the Executive Board and the managing directors of our subsidiaries.
- The members propose strategic goals, initiate measures and ensure within their respective units that line managers meet their responsibilities.
- The members exchange information, discuss the latest challenges and share best practices.
- The members are accessible to all employees.
- As leaders of our company, the members are role models within their units.
Group Human Resources (HR) analyzes existing requirements and is implementing a number of programs and processes in order to anchor diversity within the company
Our commitment: Industry-wide initiatives and regulations
In 2019, we introduced our Social and Labor Standards Policy, which clearly indicates that we do not tolerate any form of discrimination, physical or verbal harassment, or intolerance.
To underscore our commitment to equality, fairness, inclusion and tolerance at the workplace, we additionally participate in industry-wide initiatives.
- In 2019, we signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles, an initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace.
- In addition, we endorsed the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Equality Act.
- In 2017, we adopted the new Inclusion Action Plan of the German Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE), which defines concrete measures to create a more inclusive workforce for employees with disabilities. In endorsing this plan, we are meeting the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- In 2015, we signed the IG BCE Equal Opportunity Charter, thereby promising to do everything in our power to achieve gender equality within the company.
- In 2013, we endorsed the German industry-wide “Charta der Vielfalt” (Diversity Charter).
Meeting statutory requirements
The German Law for the Equal Participation of Women and Men in Leadership Positions in the Public and Private Sector has been in effect in Germany since 2015. Owing to our legal form as a KGaA (corporation with general partners), this law also applies in part to us. Detailed information can be found on our website.
Consisting of 37.5% women (six out of 16 members), our Supervisory Board already meets the stipulations of German legislation on the gender quota. Owing to our legal form as a KGaA (corporation with general partners), we are not required to set targets for our Executive Board. For the two management levels below the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, however, the Executive Board set the following targets in 2016:
- 21% women on the first management level of Merck KGaA below the Executive Board
- 26% women on the second management level below the Executive Board
The deadline set for reaching these targets is December 31, 2021.
Rooting out unconscious bias
We want to promote a stronger sense of diversity and inclusion among our employees. This also includes learning how unconscious bias influences us in daily working life. In 2019, we raised employee awareness of the topic at occasions such as International Women’s Day and our own Diversity Days. We launched a new, Group-wide training course on the topic, which is also part of our management education programs. Approximately 3,160 employees completed the course in 2019. They learned how to recognize the unconscious biases and stereotypes they harbor themselves and how to prevent unintended, unfair treatment. The training is also available as an e-learning course.
In 2019, we also set up the Job Analyzer, a digital tool for filling vacant positions globally. It helps us maintain gender neutrality when communicating with applicants while minimizing unconscious bias in the recruiting process. The Job Analyzer is currently available in English, with plans for localized versions for the United Kingdom and Canada. German and French versions are also scheduled for completion in 2020.
Promoting women leaders and talent
We support our business units in their efforts to increase the proportion of women in leadership roles. For example, two business sectors already have sponsoring programs in place. This offers women the possibility of having an experienced leader as a sponsor who supports and advises them.
Furthermore, we hosted a variety of events on the topic in 2019:
- Approximately 3,450 employees took part in Diversity Days – an event series dedicated to the topic of inclusion.
- On the occasion of 2019 International Women’s Day, the Healthcare business sector organized an event in Darmstadt (Germany). More than 200 participants from all business sectors and Group functions attended. The aim of the event was to sensitize participants to unconscious bias and respectful working environment.
On the occasion of the 2019 International Women’s Day, in the United States we again sponsored the Big Sisters initiative, a mentoring program for young women from underprivileged communities.
In Italy, we offer an internship program specifically for women with MS because on average, women develop multiple sclerosis (MS) twice as often as men.
Networks to bolster diversity
Creating an inclusive work environment and fostering a culture of mutual respect are two prominent priorities of our Diversity Strategy. That is why we purposefully support various employee networks. Apart from our internal women’s network in various countries, these include networks that further the interests of the LGBTQI community, Afro-American employees and international staff. Moreover, employee networks pursuing similar goals began working more closely together and several expanded internationally in 2019. Above and beyond this, we want to help them establish leadership structures and set goals for themselves.
- Our women’s networks are creating a working environment that values qualified women and helps them to advance.
- In 2019, our Rainbow Network for homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex employees again supported Christopher Street Day in Frankfurt and Darmstadt (both in Germany). We were one of the main official corporate sponsors of the event in Darmstadt. In 2019, two further company Rainbow networks were formed in Switzerland and Brazil, with employees in Geneva (Switzerland) and São Paulo (Brazil) taking part in Pride parades in 2019. The Rainbow Network has also been active in the United States and Canada since 2016. In the run-up to Christopher Street Day, we organized pre-Pride events at 11 of our sites in the United States and ran further activities to mark Pride month.
- Our U.S.-based Black Leadership Network is dedicated to advancing and developing African-American employees, offering advanced training and continuing education programs, tailored career planning and networking opportunities. In addition, 2019 saw the establishment of the “Leaders of Color” network in North America. Consequently, the Black Leadership Network will temporarily discontinue its activities, working instead to support the multifaceted and integrative approach of the new network.
- In our Carer Network, we bring together employees from across the globe who provide nursing care assistance for family members. As a platform for exchange, this network helps its members to better cope with personal and professional circumstances while caring for sick or aging family members. To raise awareness for the often overlooked needs of carers, the network also supports the general mission “Embracing Carers”.
Tapping into external networks
For ten years now, our company has been a corporate partner of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA), a global organization committed to furthering the advancement and impact of women in the healthcare industry – almost exclusively through volunteers. We support female employees who wish to volunteer for the HBA. In 2019, more than ten of our employees were active in Germany, Europe and the United States. Two of them were members of the Europe Regional Council, with one serving as Regional Chair Europe. We are represented on both the global and the European advisory boards. In addition, we sponsor events organized by the HBA and give our female employees free access to events and conferences. In 2019, the HBA recognized one of our initiatives dedicated to the promotion of women in leadership positions.
Taking action against discrimination
As stipulated in our Code of Conduct and in our Social and Labor Standards Policy introduced in 2019, we do not tolerate any form of discrimination within our company. If employees feel discriminated against, harassed or not tolerated, they can report the issue via various channels. Their first point of contact is either their supervisor or one of the two Group functions Human Resources (HR) or Compliance. Alternatively, employees throughout the Group can call our SpeakUp Line anonymously. Group Compliance is responsible for investigating alleged cases. As a member of our Group Compliance Case Committee, our Group HR function coordinates cases relating to HR. Details on alleged cases can be found under Compliance.
Good ranking in diversity and equality indices
We ranked fourth – among three other companies, reaching 80 out of 100 possible points in 2019 in the DAX 30 LGBT+ Diversity Index of the Uhlala Group.
At the beginning of 2020, the American Human Rights Campaign Foundation rated our LGBTQ activities throughout 2019. We scored 90% out of 100% in the “Corporate Equality Index” (CEI) which measured the equality and inclusion of our LGBTQ employees.
These rankings show us on the one hand that we are on the right track when it comes to successfully living diversity and an inclusive work environment. On the other hand, they help us to address potential deficits.
Successfully integrating international employees
Our company is becoming increasingly international. We currently employ people from a total of 139 nations, 22% of whom are German citizens. Our leadership (Role 4+) includes representatives of 73 nationalities. In 2019, 64% of leadership positions were held by non-German employees. As of the end of 2019, 9% of our workforce worked outside their home countries.
To best facilitate this international collaboration, we offer intercultural training for all employees along with suitable digital tools. For instance, our Cultural Navigator helps prepare our staff for international projects and business trips abroad. To help employees transferred abroad to adjust more quickly, we offer language training and international networks. For instance, more than 700 expatriate employees are members of the International Community, which meets regularly in Darmstadt.
Our business language is English. To ensure that all employees understand our communications, we also provide a great deal of information in the respective local languages of our employees.
Rising to the challenges of demographic change
Another issue we are tackling is demographic change. We expect the average age of our workforce to continue to rise in the coming years. In Germany, we are responding to this trend with various initiatives including our workplace Health Management program. For example, we use BELS, our workplace ergonomic assessment tool, to design work spaces that help employees to maintain their physical performance and remain healthy. The tool takes the demographic development in account by evaluating various age-related stress factors, which in turn enables us to adapt our workplaces to suit the needs of older individuals. Moreover, we also offer innovative shift models and a prevention program for shift workers.